Introduction: Keeping Kids Entertained in the Car: 12 Fun Things to Do With Just Pencil and Paper

When I was a kid, I had a blast going on road trips!  We would often spend days on the road, and us kids were always entertained.  Guess what?  We didn't have a DVD player in the car, we didn't have a game system (Gameboy, Sega, Nintendo DS, etc.)  We had to make up our own games and the time flew by. 

Included are 12 fun things that I used to do in the car to help the time go by, and a few variations.  All that's needed, is some paper and a pen/pencil.  Pencils vs Pens, pencils are much more kid friendly, mistake proof, and a lot less messy, however, for the case of this instructable, pens showed up much better in photos.

Step 1: 1. Write Something!

Whether it is a story or a poem, it is fun to write something!

You could start with a well-known story, book, movie that you all know?  What about Jack and the Beanstalk?  What if Jack were a girl, and the beanstalk was really made of donuts?  What kind of story would that be?  How would those things improve or hinder the story?

Why not come up with 3 similar things, like a princess, a candle, and a garage door opener and see what kind of stories you can come up with?

It is fun to share the stories with each other and see how different they both are.  Imaginations are great!

Limericks and Haiku poems are some of my favorite types of poetry!  When I was a kid, I would always try to come up with the best limerick or haiku! 

Haiku poems are simple non-rhyming poems, they are three lines, with 5 syllables on the first line, 7 on the second line, and 5 again on the third line.  They are a lot of fun. 

Limericks are a little harder, they need to be 8, 8, 7, 7, 8 and they need to rhyme in A A B B A pattern.  But they are also so much fun!

Step 2: Make a Word Search!

Make a word search! 

It's easy!  Draw some vertical lines on a piece of line paper.  Now, just think of a theme and then come up with words that fit into that theme. For this one, I did Disney characters. Then, I entered the Disney characters into the boxes.  You could come up with a lot more than I did.  As long as they fit into the boxes, horizontal, vertical, diagonal, backwards, then they can be in the word bank.  Now, just fill in the rest of the letters.  Trade and see who can finish theirs first!  Who made the hardest one?  Whose theme was best?  Want more of a challenge, don't use a word bank or tell them the theme, let them figure it out on their own.

Step 3: Draw a Picture Line by Line!

First person, Draw a line, one solid line, then pass the paper.  Second person draw one line, then pass the paper.  Continue until the picture is done!  Here, we did a monster!  Grrrrr!  He looks ferocious!

*** Remember lines can be straight, curly, zig-zags, everything!**

Step 4: Guess That Song!

Ever had a song stuck in your head that you just couldn't get out? Of course, everyone has! 

For this all you have to do is make up several small pieces of paper, and write down popular songs on them.  The more the better.

Now, stack them into a deck, and have the first player pick one.  They don't show anyone.  Now, they have a mile (can make it longer or shorter according to age of players) to hum or whistle the song  until someone gets it!

Then, just tear the paper in half, the person that guessed right gets one half and the person that gave the clue gets the other half.  If no one gets it, then the paper gets crumbled and thrown away.  Continue going in a circle so that everyone has the same amount of turns to hum/whistle the tune.  The person with the most halves wins! 

(It's a lot harder than it seems!)

Step 5: I Went to ______ and Brought______.

This is a very simple game.

Just fill in the blanks, for instance-

I went to (wherever you are traveling) and brought_____________.

Now, the first person enters something that begins with the letter "A" like, an Armadillo.

The next person says,

I went to (wherever you are traveling) and brought an Armadillo, and a

And then they enter something that starts with the letter "B" like a Bird.

So the next person says,

I went to (wherever you are traveling) and brought an Armadillo, a Bird and a

something that starts with the letter "C" like a Crate.

It goes on like this until you get to the letter "Z" then everyone goes around and says the whole list! 

** For a tougher version try adding ridiculous amounts of detail to each item!**

A= Armadillo with a diamond necklace on.
B=Britney Spears assistant named 'Guadalupe'
C=Carnivorous Watermelons
D=Dreamcatchers made with Human Hair

** Having problems remembering what everyone said?  Have a person that is a scribe and can write down what everyone says!  Or trade a notebook back and forth so that the answers can be checked.

Step 6: Hangman, Tic-Tac-Toe, Dots, Car Ride BINGO!

Play Hangman, Tic-Tac-Toe, Dots, Car Ride BINGO!


Hangman is a simple phrase game similar to Wheel of Fortune.  Someone comes up with a phrase and the other person guesses letters.  If the letter is correct, it is placed in the blanks of the phrase, if it isn't in the phrase, a stick-figure body part is added to the hangman's gallows. Head, body, leg, leg, arm, arm, and you can add eye, eye, nose, and mouth.  There are dozens of variations!


Draw a large #

Take turns placing X's and O's until someone gets three in a row!


Draw a grid of dots.  It can be almost any size.  I usually just fill up half a page.  Players take turns drawing single lines.  Once a box is formed a player, places their initials in it, then they can place another line.  Sometimes this ends up in chains of boxes!  The player with the most boxes at the end wins!

Car Ride BINGO!

I love this game!  First, all the people playing make a grid.  It can be 4x4,5x5,6x6, etc. as long as everyone's grid is the same size.  Make it an extra challenge by making it huge!  Now, everyone takes turns coming up with ideas of what to put in the boxes.  Once agreed upon, the item goes into one of the boxes.  For ex.  "Red Car," and everyone puts "Red Car" into a box on their BINGO cards.  Don't forget to put a couple of free spaces somewhere on the card. Now, trade cards, and start hunting those red cars!!

The great part of this version of Car Ride BINGO, is that if you are traveling from one distinct location to another location, then you can vary the items that go into the boxes.   If you are traveling by highway, or by quaint country road, you can customize your BINGO experience.  Plus, part of the fun is coming up with what is in the boxes!

Step 7: Who Is Driving That Car?

You see a car in the distance, it is traveling a little slower than the rest of the cars and you will eventually pass it.    Let's guess who is driving that car...

Add details and give the person a complete back story!


A: The person driving that car is tall.

B: And a guy.

C: He is single.

A: And he's in his thirties.

B:  And he's on vacation.

C: He's headed to go sky-diving!

A: With his girlfriend.

Example 2:

A:  I think she is a middle-aged soccer mom.

B: With blonde hair.

C: Definitely blonde hair, and blue eyes too.

B:  She is going to a court date.

A: Her husband's court day!

B: She believes he is innocent.

C: But he isn't!

Then, when you pass the car see if you were right?  How close were you?  Were any details accurate?  What's the back story of the person that was really driving the car?

Step 8: Play Charades!

Play charades! 

You don't have to be standing to play charades. Just act things out smaller.

Get lots of little pieces of paper and write down movies, books, plays, songs, and TV shows on them.   Take turns picking a paper and acting it out.  If you get it, then you get the paper, and your turn is next.  Person with the most papers win!

Tips on acting it out:

Movies: Like you are holding an old-fashioned camera with a crank on the side.
Books: Palms touching in front of you, and opening from the spine of the book, while opening your hands
Plays: Palms out, with hands together, then parting like a curtain parting
Songs: hand moving out from mouth like a song, with mouth open
TV Shows: pointer fingers and thumbs forming a small screen like a TV.

Hold up 1,2,3 etc fingers for how many words there are.

If you want to do a word by syllables, then hold up the number of the word then, place syllables by touching your elbow. 

If someone gets a word right, then point to them and touch your nose.  They got it " on the nose."

**On the plus side: Charades require no talking, so peace and quiet on the road!**

Step 9: Put on a Play/skit!

Every time we travel, we stop at rest areas.  One of the best part of a rest area is to be able to run around and stretch your legs. 

Let the kids plan and put on a play at the rest stop.  Not only will it burn off energy, but it will be constructive play in a limited amount of time.

Between rest stops have them plan out a play and put it on for the adults, at the next rest stop.  They can write lines, they can plan costumes, etc.

Next, after everyone has gone to the bathroom, find a nice picnic table and watch the play!

Step 10: Make Paper Airplanes!

Make paper airplanes!

Different designs, different folding techniques, different decorations.  Folded here, torn there, and pinched!  Then, race them at the next rest area. 

Whose flew farthest?  Why? 

Get back in the car, make a new one, or make changes to this one and at the next rest area try flying them again!  At the end of the trip you will have a super sweet paper airplane!

Step 11: Make a Cootie-Catcher!

A Cootie-Catcher is a fortune teller!

They are easy to make and play with.

First, get a piece of paper, fold into a giant triangle, fold and tear off excess piece that is not part of a large square.  Fold all the corners into the middle, turn over and repeat.  Fold in half both ways for easier use.  Now, pop open and place your thumbs and pointer fingers into the holes in the back, hold together and open one way and then the other. 

Now, that we tested it, we can write the fortunes!  Place various numbers on each tab.  Place various colors on each tab inside.  Write different fortunes inside each tab.


You will be kissed by someone you like next week.

You will have 9 kids.

You will write a famous book one day.

You will travel to Hawaii on your honeymoon.

Then to play, have the person first pick a number, fold the cootie catcher one way and the next, that many times.  Now have them pick a color, spell out the color, by going back and forth on the cootie catcher. 

Then have them pick another color, open up the cootie catcher and read their fortune!

Step 12: Play Improv Games!

Play Improv Games!

Improv games, called Improvisational games, are great fun.  They are featured on such TV shows, like, "Whose line is it anyway?" and "Improv-A-Ganza."

90 second alphabet:

Someone picks a location, and a letter to start with.  Each line of dialogue from the characters have to start with the next letter of the alphabet.  Try to complete the scene in 90 seconds!

Questions only:

Each person can only speak in questions, when a person doesn't they are "out," and the other person wins.  Just need a location!

Rhyme Time :

Start with a rhythm, like pat one leg, then the other, then snap snap.  Start slow, with all people going at the same time.  Then the person starting says a word to rhyme with, the next person, has the pat, pat, snap, snap to come up with another word and says it in rhythm, then it goes to the next person.  If someone can't say it in time to the pat, pat, snap, snap, then they are out.  It continues this way until you have a winner!


Start with a rhythm, just like in Rhyme Time, like pat one leg, then the other, then snap snap. Start slow, with all people going at the same time. Then the person starting says a category (ex: colors, pets, animals, Disney characters), the next person, has the pat, pat, snap, snap to come up with word that goes into that category.  If someone can't say it in time to the pat, pat, snap, snap, then they are out. It continues this way until you have a winner!


Make up a story one line at a time.  Have one person point to two or more people, each time they point to a person, they have to continue with the story!

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